The Immortality of Memory

An Ordinary Day In 2045

I trudge into the little room and stare at the boxes laid out in front of me. Another day of sorting and meticulously arranging the memories that others have forgotten. It’s not the most glamorous job there is, but it has its moments.

It feels like I’ve been working as a Sorter forever, but it’s only been ten years. It’s about the only thing I can do now. My bones tend to creak when there’s any more exertion involved, and I get tired easily. My own memories of life have started to fade in and out, sometimes blending together into vivid tapestries that were never really painted to begin with. So I go through the memories of others, living the lives that they no longer do, sharing in their joys and sorrows.

First up in today’s haul, an old box of toys. Batman action figures. Now that takes me back. I pick up one of the figures and examine it. Was this mine? No. I never had that one. I wonder what did happen to my old Batman collection. It was lost ages ago, and I can’t even remember where it all went. As a younger man, that would have upset me a lot. I’d be devastated about losing a collection I’d spent so much time amassing. It seems so insignificant now, nothing more than a bunch of plastic.

And so it goes with all things in life. Every loss seems catastrophic in the moment, a black hole from which one can never emerge. But as time starts to cover the cracks left behind, it creates some perspective. Losing your lucky keychain or your favorite shirt doesn’t seem quite so important as it did then. It’s not the worst day ever, or the end of the world. You almost feel sorry for your younger self, agonizing over such trivial things But there are some losses that even time can’t take the sting out of.

Losing the people in your life is hard, whether it’s best friends moving away across the world or close relatives dying. It takes away a part of you and leaves a scar that never heals, no matter how much it may fade.

But every loss, no matter how big or small, can help you discover something about yourself. You may find that you’re more resilient than you thought, able to find light amidst the darkness and to find new reasons to smile even as the old ones disappear into nothing. Or you may realize that you’re not as strong as you believed yourself to be, falling apart like a house of cards when you lost a bit of stability.

How you cope with loss can help you see who you really are, both in terms of the relationships that are gone, and the ones that you now have. A whole new world opens up to you. It’s a world that’s more unpredictable than the one you knew, one where the things you hold dearest can be snatched out of your grasp at any time by the chaos that rules the universe. It’s a scary thought, and may lead you to lock yourself up in your mind, throwing away the key. Fear of loss may lead you to hold onto everything with an iron grip, searching for control where you have none. Or you could choose to accept the way of the world and appreciate what there is without worrying about how long it will stay.

It’s not an easy thing to do. To this day, it’s something I’m working on. I think back on the many losses I’ve suffered over the years. They made me feel helpless, like I had no control over my life. But of course, that wasn’t true. I had control over my choices and my decisions. I could live in constant fear of losing, holding onto everyone I loved so tightly that I might just smother them. Or I could focus on making memories, creating moments that would live to be immortal even if the people sharing them didn’t.

And that’s what I find myself surrounded with. Immortality. These boxes, full of objects lost and forgotten, are preserving stories, or parts of them anyway. I put the Batman figure in my bag. My grandson will love it. Who knows what adventures he’ll take it on, what stories he’ll tell with it. One day, this simple toy will be lost again, relegated to the past. He’ll be very upset; it’ll be the end of the world. But his memories of the toy and his adventures with it will never be lost. He will have them forever.

Gone, But Still Here

How would I feel if some event that I attended, and enjoyed, were taken away from me? Sad, pissed off, grumpy. That’s the short answer.

The longer answer is ‘I don’t know’. Well, the answer’s actually longer than that. I’m sure I’d hate losing the event and feel upset about having it taken away from me, but I’d also find something else to take up my time. Any ill feelings would eventually subside and be replaced by acceptance and nostalgia.

As a real-life example, I haven’t exactly lost an old event, but an old place. The shopping mall that my family used to visit every weekend for a night out, that was the site of many a delicious childhood meal, has recently undergone renovation. The whole mall’s been closed off with the promise of re-opening under a brand new guise.

Now the truth of the matter is, that mall kinda sucked. Back when we only had a handful of places to choose from, it was a shopping hot spot, but in today’s Dubai, it was a dinosaur that had somehow dodged the meteor. But I still liked going there for the nostalgia factor, and the food court on the top floor was a reminder of all those Thursday nights with my family.

All that’s gone now, soon to be replaced by a shiny new coat of paint. Yay. The march of progress in this city can be frustrating to watch, tearing down the simple little things to make way for the next big thing. Why not just leave some things as they are? I get that it makes sense from a business standpoint: if it’s losing money, make it better. But my childhood self wants that crappy little mall, complete with the tiny bookshop that had a strict ‘No Reading’ policy, the Hallmark store where I’d browse through random knick knacks sometimes, the little video store where I’d search for video cassettes of my favorite cartoons and, of course, the food court with the A & W in the corner.

Just thinking about it as I write this post makes me feel like I’m 9 again.

Losing a regularly visited place like that really sucks. But, like I said, the resentment’s passed. I’m not angry or upset about losing that place, because I haven’t really lost it. If I close my eyes, I can still remember it in vivid detail, from the aromas of various cuisines drifting through, to the games that used to be at the adjoining arcade, to the fountain that greeted you immediately after entering the mall. It’s all still right here,

Darkest Corners

I was looking through my previous blog drafts and came across this piece, which I had published last year. It’s pretty depressing, maybe overly so, which is why I later took it down. However, after my last post about being on the road to happiness, this serves as an interesting contrast, touching on the same subject and showing how my life and my perspective on it have changed in the past few months.

On a more technical note, I’d like to think my writing’s improved as well. Some of the below post is hard to read for the wrong reasons.

I promise this will be the last post where I depress the hell out of my readers.

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This is a strange follow-up to the fairly upbeat ’30 Days of Fitness’ posts, but there are certain thoughts that tend to eat away at me from time to time, with increasing regularity nowadays. They needed a place to be unloaded and this seemed like the best dumping ground. It feels somewhat therapeutic to be writing all this down, but it’s only a temporary reprieve. Like weeds, they’ll take root again, infesting the darkest corners of my mind.

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Isolation

 

I look out the window at the sprawling city before me. They say it glitters like jewels in the sun; all I see is a dull, lifeless gray. The streets are overflowing with people running to and fro, from office to office, meeting to meeting. The city is supposedly a melting pot of different cultures, but they all look the same to me: faceless and indistinct.

It has been a little over 4 years since I returned to the city. At one time, it used to be home; I basked in its familiarity. Today, I find myself as a tourist in a foreign metropolis, walking past uninviting towers of glass and concrete. This is not the same place that I grew up in and, at the same time, I’m not the same person that grew up here.

It is a city that’s designed for a certain type of person. To use the popular cliche, it is the city that never sleeps. Everyone spends every hour of every day working to earn even more money, hoping to climb up the corporate ladder and sit comfortably on top of it. The boundaries between professional and personal lives are ever shifting, the concept of free time laughable. This city is designed for a certain type of person. That person isn’t me. I don’t think it ever was.

Now I find myself lost in the midst of a desert, desperately seeking an oasis of humanity. Making friends was never easy for me, and I find friendship to be an especially rare commodity here. In the sort of ironic twist that life loves to toss around, the friends who are dearest to me live half a world away, and with each passing year, I fear the distance between us is becoming intraversable.

More and more often, I find myself thinking back to happier times, times spent with friends in a place where I actually seemed to matter, where I felt like I belonged. And then, through a combination of bad luck and bad decisions, I found myself booted out from there and thrown back into this cesspool. At least I had my family around as some sort of consolation. But even that wasn’t meant to last.

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Grief
 

My mother died of cancer last year. It came out of nowhere, and as we were still trying to process the situation, it was over. My prior experience with death involved my grandfather, who died when I was too young to really grasp the concept, and my grandmother, who I had been so far removed from at that point that news of her passing brought no major outpouring of emotion with it. So this was, in essence, the first time I’d lost someone I truly cared about, and in such a horrible and unexpected way.

The days after my mother’s death were like a haze. My father, brother and I went about our lives, trying to find some semblance of normalcy. I had fully expected that a death in the family would render me catatonic, so I managed to surprise myself by continuing on with life. But there was a nagging feeling that things were wrong, a feeling that I pushed into the depths of my mind.

Now, over a year later, everything still feels weird. I had though that on my mother’s anniversary, all wounds would be healed, all memories of her death would be wiped clean, almost as if by magic.And yet, the pain still lingers. Many nights I will close my eyes and see myself again at her hospital bed, watching the life slowly drain out of her. In my dreams, my mother still lives, but so does her cancer. It’s as if the healthy, happy person I knew never even existed.

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Anxiety

After a fairly lengthy period of unemployment, I finally managed to get a job earlier this year. It was, I hoped, a new beginning. A way to finally get my life back on track. And so it was, for a time. A new routine led me to adopt a new, healthier lifestyle and got me thinking about my financial security. However, that security has been compromised somewhat by a few financial troubles plaguing my family, and I find myself wondering if I can actually save for some sort of retirement.

My job is the kind of relaxed affair that’s hard to find in a fast-paced city like this, and I’m certainly grateful to have any kind of employment at all, but I do find myself on the quest for something more challenging. But then another thought occurs to me: what if this is all I have? What if no other place will hire an engineer who hasn’t done any real engineering in years, a short-lived salesman who doesn’t like selling, and a writer who’s barely got any experience in the field? Five or ten years from now, will I still find myself stuck behind this desk? Or will I be on a constant hunt for gainful employment?

I follow the same routine every day: wake up, go to work, have lunch, continue work, come home, unwind, go to bed and repeat. Without any friends around, things get predictable fast. My brother is busy with his own life, and as much as I love my dad, surely he can’t be my only companion? I want to settle into a routine that makes me happy, a routine that I share with a certain someone, but the search for that someone seems to grow more difficult with time. And if I am losing my mind, as I so often believe I am, then I have to ask myself what sensible girl would want to spend her life with someone so mentally and emotionally broken.

Uncertainty has always found a way to re-route my fortunes, through financial struggles, unemployment and even death. It’s hard to look at the future and see any brightness. The future is full of uncertainty, and I’ve already had enough of that. So I go one day at a time, trying to make it through uneventful and bland work days, absorbing myself in my hobbies, escaping the mundanity of my existence in the colorful worlds created by books and video games, sticking to my schedules, and going to bed each night with the hope that tomorrow I’ll wake up in a happier and more fulfilled life.